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High Court Won’t Tinker With ‘Top Two’ Election Scheme

(CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to a hear the case of minor political parties in California who claim they're shut out of general elections because of the state's top-two primary system.

In November 2011, the Green Party of Alameda County joined the state's Libertarian Party and Peace and Freedom Party in suing the California Secretary of State after voters passed a top-two system for electing statewide and legislative officeholders in 2010.

Under the system, an open nonpartisan primary is followed by a general-election runoff between the primary's top two vote-getters. The minor parties complained the change kept them off the ballot because - regardless of any support their candidates may have received in the primary - they would never get enough votes to get into the top two and thus on to the general election ballot.

An Alameda County judge dismissed the suit, finding the top-two system doesn't impose restrictions on minor parties' access to the primary ballot and that no party has a right to participate in the general election ballot absent finishing in the top two.

Earlier this year, the First Appellate District in San Francisco upheld the trial court's dismissal, agreeing that even a show of "significant support" doesn't give the minor parties a right to appear on the general election ballot.

Additionally, the appeals panel found the scheme doesn't restrict minor party members' rights to political expression even where a candidate from their party doesn't appear on the general election ballot, and that the parties' equal-protection claims failed because California's electoral system treats all political parties identically.

The parties next went to the California Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court did the same, without further comment per its usual custom.

The denial was one of dozens the Supreme Court made Tuesday without taking on any new cases.

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